Black Friday is at the end of this week after Thanksgiving. What to get for grandma and grandpa? The lists of things to buy are usually lotions, and socks, and slippers, and grocery gift cards – all which are good! But I was thinking…. what do elders really want?
My grandchildren say I am ‘really cool’ because I stay connected with them on Facebook, Instagram, texting, phone, and Snapchat. I don’t know about cool, but I am grateful that in my elder years I can continue to be part of the greater community and my family even when the day comes that I cannot travel as I can now. So I asked the elders I come in contact with around the United States What do you want? And their answers were the same as mine!
- To spend quality time with friends and family.
- To have a purposeful life.
- To maintain independence in choice.
- To continue learning and growing.
- To have joy and spontaneity.
- To have peace of mind.
The greatest gift you can give is a way for your loved one to stay connected. You might be surprised how savvy elders can be with a quick tutorial on tablets and iPads and smart phones.
There are some things that are important to consider, if you are thinking about technology gifts.
- Wi-fi must be set up in the senior’s home. If living in a senior housing community, most have free wi-fi.
- It is important to have someone to to tutor and build a relationship during the learning process to navigate the device. Grandchildren, friends, or if in a Senior housing community, the Millennial care-team members and their volunteer teams are great resources.
FIVE REALLY COOL GIFTS FOR GRANDMA AND GRANDPA
- TABLETS AND IPADS: These all-in-one devices are in many ways perfect for seniors with their touch-screen technology and large print options. The touch screen allows the elder to access apps easily with a tap of the finger.
- Facebook– In our senior housing communities, I have seen the joy on the faces of elders who are connecting with grandchildren and long lost friends. One of our Millennial care team members showed an 87 year old elder how to do a video chat on Facebook with her son. It made her day! The next morning, when I came into the community, she told me, “I got 8 likes last night!” Friends she had not connected with in 40 years had found her and connected!
- Learning and researching– I talked with a 92 year old man sitting in the living room with earphones and the tablet watching youtube videos about how to care for plants, as he advised us on the landscaping. He told me, “This has opened a world of new information to me!”
- Google earth– Want to ‘walk down the street’ of your childhood home, or visit places in the world? Some of our teams have hooked a laptop or a tablet to a computer and taken a tour of the world. One woman, who was born in France was able to virtually visit her home town!
- Cost: Tablets cost between $129 – $300 depending on the brand.
2. SMART PHONE: Phones are not only important for keeping the social connection, and necessary for quality of life — but also give elders peace of mind. Many smartphones offer large buttons, speed dial, visual rings and more.
- Samsung Jitterbug is available on Amazon.com for $60.
- If your family has a a ‘family plan’ with your provider, you can add grandma or grandpa for $20 – $40 a month, and purchase the phone on an installment plan.
- Several residents and care team members were chatting with Mrs. Jackson who had just received a new iPhone from her family. Jasmine, a care team member, talked about ‘Face time’, so we asked Mrs. Jackson if she had her grandson’s phone number in her phone. She did, and Jasmine showed her how to make a Facetime call. When the grandson answered he saw faces of of his grandma and all of her friends and care team members excited about the connection!
- Add ear phones to the gift, and show grandma or grandpa how to access their favorite music too!
3. DIGITAL PHOTOS: With most of our photos on social media these days, we don’t often take the time to print photos.
- Digital photo frames are available from $34 to about $110 (which also supports video), depending on what size and capacity you want.
- Another nice option is to use Shutterfly, where you can upload your photos from Facebook or other social media, or directly from your phone or computer to create a traditional photo album with captions. The photo book can be mailed directly to your grandpa and grandma to enjoy. Depending on the size of the book, the cost can be $25 – and up.
4. IPOD OR MP3 PLAYER & HEADPHONES: Studies have proven that music has a powerful therapeutic benefit for all people, and particularly elders.
- Purchase head phones for $15+ depending on the quality.
- Purchase an MP3 player or iPod shuffle. The cost is between $20-$50.
- Download a song list of music you know that your grandparent loves.
If you haven’t seen the documentary ‘Alive Inside’, it is available on Netflix, and we have seen the power of music to alleviate depression, improve memory, and enhance life!
5. AMAZON ECHO DOT: Cost $50. This is my newest best friend, and I have one in my home office. In the morning I can say, “Alexa good morning, what is the weather like today?” She gives a weather forecast. I can ask what the time is. I can ask Alexa to play my favorite music. I can even order through my Amazon Prime account. “Alexa, add sugar to my cart”. I can also say, “Alexa, tell me a joke” (they are not very funny!), or “Alexa, what’s in the headlines today? or “Alexa set a timer for 10 minutes”. This week, as I was experimenting with this, I thought this might be nice for an elder to have in his or her home, especially if visually impaired. If you have a ‘smart home’, you can also say, “Alexa, turn on the lights in the living room”, or “Alexa, lock the front door.”
I found a funny video of elders learning to talk with Alexa.
I had to add this to my “Cool list” today
Technology is here to stay, and the elders I talk with are excited about the possibilities of leading a more vibrant connected life in this new era. Yes, some say, “I am too old for this.” But as soon as a connection is made, it is amazing to see how purpose, connection, spontaneity, and joy is evident in their lives!
Another documentary available on Netflix I have been following is ‘Cyber Seniors” watch the trailer here. Happy Holiday Shopping!
About the Author: Jean Garboden is the Director of Education and Innovation at Compass Senior Living, located in Eugene Oregon. Jean is an Elder Advocate and Eden Alternative Educator with over 30 years’ experience in not-for-profit and for profit health care organizations. She is honored to lead the mission and values culture development for Compass Senior Living. Jean lives in Las Vegas, Nevada where she enjoys the weather and volunteers with the Nevadans for the Common Good, advocating for caregivers and elders in southern Nevada.